2021 Latin Lawyer Elite Firm
Securely anchored among Uruguay’s elite firms, Ferrere dominates a familiar field with unflappable ease. Its reach across South America gives it an extensive arsenal of legal resources to call upon, not to mention a profound and intricate understanding of the region surrounding its stronghold. Ferrere may have established itself as a permanent fixture within Uruguay’s legal market, but it has a youthful streak that keeps the firm on top of the latest market trends and innovative legal strategies.
During the covid-19 pandemic that took over 2020 and much of 2021, Ferrere’s fundamental value of being at the frontier of technology paid off in reams. Its lawyers are equipped with the latest legal software and digital innovation, allowing them to provide first-class legal advice from any corner of the world. That meant that when working from home became the new normal last year, Ferrere easily adapted to the shifting landscape. Meanwhile, the firm is led by a sturdy set of ethics that ensures no one is left behind, so that that in the face of the pandemic its lawyers and clients were supported in equal measure.
The turbulent events of 2020 neither stopped Ferrere from gaining a place on high-value and cross-border work for the firm’s active transactional practice groups, nor did it prevent its esteemed disputes practice from advising on high-profile deals. Ferrere helped steer the implementation of Uruguay’s new merger control, which introduced a two-phase review of company combinations as well as a new conditional approval rule. The firm also assisted the international lenders to a consortium of transport operators in the public-private partnership (PPP) railway project connecting the cities of Montevideo and Paso de los Toros. It had worked with the same lenders for the project in the previous year, in Uruguay’s largest-ever PPP financing.
Ferrere’s growth strategy is to become the go-to law firm in each country in which it has a presence. Historically, Ferrere has added firepower to its Bolivian, Ecuadorean and Paraguayan offices to reinforce its Uruguayan offering, where a compact market requires less manpower. A universal understanding of each of the region’s jurisdictions has put the firm in excellent standing where multijurisdictional matters are concerned. However, throughout 2020, Ferrere offices in Bolivia and Ecuador saw tectonic shifts in headcount, with spates of the firm’s partnership and lawyers exiting to launch or join new rival outfits. The departures are likely to put the spotlight on its highly successful Uruguayan offering while it replenishes stock elsewhere.
The firm’s took those changes in its stride and managing partner Agustín Mayer revealed that the firm is making adjustments, fine-tuning its regional offering as it remains committed to its clients in both Bolivia and Ecuador.
Mayer leads a tight ship at Ferrere, after assuming the role in 2017. The partner is passionate about providing young lawyers with opportunities in the legal sector with firm-wide initiatives. To that end, the firm runs a corporate social responsibility programme called Transforma, which partners with local institutions and organisations to provide legal experiences to young people. The programme, established in 2019, provides mentorships to local schools and universities in underprivileged areas. Mayer recognises that not everyone in Uruguay has access to equal opportunities and aims to make investments that contribute to positive social change. Meanwhile, aspiring lawyers are attracted to the firm’s involvement in those initiatives, with an increasing number of recently graduated attorneys scouting for firms where they can best use their legal education to give back to the community. The firm strives towards a diverse partnership within the firm too, both in terms of gender and socio-economic background.
In a compact market like Uruguay’s, there is often just a pair of firms commanding most of the work. Ferrere sits across the table as one of two market leaders. Its service offering is as wide-ranging as its knowledge is extensive. It fields a premier M&A group, which regularly advises on cross-border and big-ticket transactions. Where Uruguay’s prominent forestry industry is concerned, Ferrere is kept extremely busy by a slew of cross-border acquisition and merger deals. Ferrere’s comprehensive finance law offering also allows it to help itself to a considerable amount of the deals on offer, including sophisticated lending deals and intricate capital markets work. Project finance is another strength, and the firm has been active in advising on much of the country’s road and public transport infrastructure, while its respected energy group allows it a steady stream of work in the country’s growing renewables sector. Its disputes team is well-respected and regularly represents well-known clients such as the likes of Uber, while its tax team is hailed for precision and excellent professional judgement.
Ferrere is invested in branching out into more novel practice areas that are quickly gaining momentum in Uruguay. One example is data protection, where it promoted a partner early on in 2020. Its life sciences group is expanding too. A testament to this group’s positioning among Uruguay’s elite is its efforts to reward success at the firm with regular promotions. The growth potential of the medical cannabis industry has not gone unchecked by the firm after the national government became one of the first in the region to legalise the use of the substance for pharmaceutical use back in 2013. As investors from large global economies such as Australia and Canada take note of Uruguay’s investment potential, the firm is looking at ways to develop a capable legal offering to match that demand.
Above all, clients commend the firm’s speedy response time and commitment to matching each legal complexity with a clear and efficient solution. Companies that enlist Ferrere’s guidance have remarked they feel assured they are making the right move in difficult transactions. Meanwhile, their close relationship to clients, in-depth knowledge and the flexibility of its lawyers all win plaudits from client feedback too.
Ferrere’s notable clientele showcases the extremely deep bench that the firm fields, both across industries and in the services it provides, while its leading legal expertise often incites lucrative and important clients to remain loyal to the firm. Uber has been a major source of work firm-wide for Ferrere in recent years, while South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai is a core client in its litigation practice. Multilateral lenders such as Corporación Andina de Fomento and the Inter-American Development Bank have been key banking clients in the past. Oil companies Total, Shell and ExxonMobil, as well as Facebook, Colombian airline Avianca and retailer H&M are all more recent additions to the firm’s client portfolio, and so are investment management firm Brookfield Assets and tech giant IBM. Mining group Vale, Argentine energy company YPF and Italian energy provider Enel can all be adjoined to that list. According to a study, ‘Who Represents Latin America's Biggest Companies’, published by the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association, which is affiliated to Latin Lawyer, Ferrere represents 10 of the approximately 100 biggest companies in the region. This makes it the second most popular firm among these clients in Uruguay.
The firm recognises, as with most in the chapter, that it must adapt with the times and implement the latest technology and AI software to keep competing in the market. Whatever the future brings, however, Ferrere puts a strong emphasis on its clients and makes a point of ensuring its partners will always be reachable, whether by telephone or in person, should they need.
The firm has maintained its retirement policy, where its partners stop working at the age of 60. That element is characteristic of the firm’s youthful outlook, with the Uruguayan group aiming to ensure its lawyers are motivated and at the top of their game. Its more seasoned practitioners are highly respected by its younger lawyers, who in turn share creative ideas that draw the firm towards more innovative transactions, such as the start-up funding rounds and fintech deals.
Diversity is taken seriously by Ferrere. The group has a board that regularly meets to monitor equal pay across genders at its firm. The firm has also taken part in a set of female empowerment initiatives established by the United Nations, such as the HeForShe campaign that encourages men to get involved with gender equality movements and stand up for their female counterparts. Partner Verónica Raffo leads the firm’s involvement in these initiatives. Ferrere also has a mentorship programme that pairs first-time mothers across the firm’s offices.
Ferrere has the largest national presence of any local firm listed in this chapter, with five outposts in Uruguay in total. Aside from its Montevideo hub, the firm pulls in real estate work from its Punta del Este branch, which is also popular with high-net-worth foreigners, while its outpost in the Zonamerica free trade zone is an important draw for public law work. The group also has a modest presence in the city of Colonia, while its Tacuarembó office is a key hub for forestry clients. Most recently, the firm opened a Paso de Los Toros base, which captures work from the ongoing US$3 billion pulp mill project being carried out by Finnish forestry group UPM.
Alliances & networks
Ferrere is a member of the Latin American tax network Lataxnet.